Camp near Petersburg Turnpike, Va.
June 29th 1864
Yours of the 23rd is at hand. It is the first letter I have had direct from home in some time. I received your last two and answered them both in one. I suppose you have the answer by this time. I have received two letters from Mary and answered both. The last was written from Newark but I believe there is one yet due me from her. I received yours with a five dollar note. I am very much obliged to you for it and this two dollars that I received this morning. I will keep it all and we get paid, I will return it to you again. Money comes very acceptable to me just at present for we have not had our pay in four months. But us soldiers must have a few little articles such as tobacco and other little things or he would lead a miserable life here.
We are resting for a short time now and I am glad we can get a little rest once more for it has been nothing but march and fight ever since we left our winter quarters. I believe this is the hardest campaign we or any other army in the world ever had. We are lying in camp about four miles from Petersburg on the plank road from the city to a place called Jerusalem. ¹ It is as near like Old Fair Oaks or Harrison’s Landing as anything I ever saw. It is very hot and dry. Last night we had a very little shower. It is the first rain we have had in 22 days so you can think how dry things are getting. There is hardly water enough to supply the troops. We have dug two wells in our camp but we have to go about twenty feet before we can see a sign of wet. All the wells are guarded for Headquarters and a private soldier cannot get a drink. There is lots of men getting sun struck every day—especially the new men who are not used to the service. Yesterday I thought I had a sunstroke but if it was, it was very light. It was the hottest day I ever experienced. I do not feel very well yet. My head aches quite some but I guess if I can keep a little in the shade, it will all pass off. It is pretty hard work to fetch us old men down. We are tanned through pretty well. I never knew or thought I could stand such a summer as this but thank God, I have stood it and all the bullets that the Rebs had a mind to throw at me.
Father, I believe that God has answered the prayers of you and my Mother. I know that many has been the prayer that has been sent up fo this poor, unworthy being. But I would to God I could be more worthy. I will try to do all in my power if I am permitted to come home again to do something worthy the interest you have taken in my behalf. I pray that He may preserve us all to meet again. Father, tell Mother that when she sees her son again, she will see a far different boy than he was when he last left her side and I hope by the Grace of God it will be for the better for I am tired of living the wicked life I have always led and I pray that it may be changed through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I shall always thank Mother for giving me my Old Testament again the last time I left home and you for those few words written in the back. Please write soon, — C. V. H.
Father, I wish when you can you would get me a light-colored hat to where our here. It is so hot that my cap makes my head ache. I can not buy any kind of a soft hat out here for less than four dollars. If you could get me a hat for about a dollar and a half or two dollars and send it by mail, I will be very much obliged to you and it will not cost as much by a great deal. The size I generally wear is 7 & 1/8th (seven and one eighth). I want a pretty wide brim and not very heavy. Mary will give you money to get it with.
Grant is beginning the siege for I can hear his mortars. Give my regards to all enquiring friends and accept the best wishes of your soldier boy, — C. Van Houten
P. S. You need not answer this letter till I write again. Then we will get our correspondence straight again. — C. V. H.
Please tell Amanda I received her letter some time ago and I will answer it pretty soon. O am glad to hear that you are progressing so nicely with the house. I wish I was there to take command of the farm so you could devote all your attention to it. It would soon be done.
Father, if you do not get a room done time enough, I do not want you to turn yourself out for me. Mary can stay at her Father’s rather than to put you out of your own room although I am very thankful for having such a Father & Mother. I guess you will be done time enough. October, I guess, is time enough although I don’t know much about it myself. Mary thinks she knows. I can’t hardly believe it yet but I suppose time will tell. My love to all. As ever yours, — C. V. H.
Please give these pictures to the girls. Tell them I have kept them so long they are worn out. I would like to have Matilda’s “Carte” and as soon as convenient. I should like Anna’s and Sammy’s and all the family’s. They are so easy to carry and so nice to look at when I am tired and feel a little homesick. If you only knew how much good it does a soldier to look at his family once in awhile—if it is only in a picture—you would not wait long before you would send me the whole family. But I must close hoping the war will soon be over so I can come home. I will sign myself, — Cornelius Van Houten
Battery B, 1st N. J. Art.
2nd Corps, Potomac Army
via Fortress Monroe, Va.
¹ From Michael Hanifen’s book (p. 116): “June 23d, went into camp near the Jones house, on the Jerusalem plank road, where we dug wells about thirty feet deep, through the clay, which cut like cheese, to bed of fine gravel, covered with a hardpan, that as soon as it was broken clear cold water rushed in to depth of five or six feet.”